Open pit ban notwithstanding, buyers still interested in Tampakan project

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 July)  — Despite the ban on open pit mining in South Cotabato,  there is no stopping interested parties from buying into Indophil Resources NL’s gold and copper mining project in Tampakan town.

The firm has started talking anew with potential buyers of  its Tampakan project following the decision of Chinese miner Zijin Mining Group Co., Ltd. to back out amid the heated debates on the passage of  the local Environment Code that bans open pit mining in the province.

The Australian firm issued this announcement Wednesday amid efforts by the Philippine government to seek a “compromise” for the massive venture to proceed.

Indophil owns 37.5% of the Tampakan project, its flagship asset, while the rest of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines, Inc. is held by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer.

“In the short period since the termination of the agreement with Zijin, Indophil has received strong expressions of interest from credible and substantial parties comprising of Chinese and non-Chinese groups,” Gavan Collery, Indophil corporate affairs manager, said.

Zijin, China’s largest gold producer and third-largest copper producer, earlier offered to acquire Indophil for A$545 million at A$1.28 per share.

Indophil is discussing with interested parties and has opened a data room to assist potential purchasers’ due diligence inquiries, Collery said.

He did not disclose the names of potential buyers, citing confidentiality agreements.

But he added that the company is not surprised at the strong level of interest, given the unique and compelling attributes of the world-class Tampakan copper-gold project which was recently supported by the findings of the extensive feasibility study provided to the Philippine government

The Tampakan project is expected to bring in $5.2 billion investments for its commercial operation slated in 2016.

On June 29, a day before ending her three terms as governor, Daisy P. Avance Fuentes (now back as Representative of the second district of the province),  announced in a press briefing that she had signed the controversial environment code banning open pit mining method in South Cotabato, a Code that Tampakan supporters said would put to risk the mining project in Tampakan.

Her successor, Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy, Jr. repeatedly said he will seek a review of the environment code

Earlier this week, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III said his administration will seek a compromise between the provincial government and the project owner for the venture to push through

“I will work towards getting them to meet on a common ground that will allay the fears and also afford us the benefits of this investment,” Aquino has said.

Environment Sec. Ramon Jesus P. Paje said he will meet with South Cotabato provincial officials and executives of Sagittarius Mines to possibly strike a compromise before the end of the month, for the venture to proceed.

Sagittarius Mines estimates the Tampakan project site can yield 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold. (MindaNews)